Dianna Molzan's La Jennifer contains all the abject fervor and polite surprise-tinged curiosity of a high school reunion. Is it longing? Is it shock? Is it ardor? An emotion like organized chaos? I asked the paintings, ‘What are we doing here?’ The paintings just shrugged, scrunching the black canvas wrapping a rectangle of stretcher bars (all the paintings maintain their anonymity, each dated 2013 and namelessly Untitled).
A cyclops quintet met my gaze first thing, spotting me from across a crowded, empty room. Each skinny canvas wears a pair of bright red lips and almond eyes. I can see these features from the gallery door as the paintings in this room each see from their bodies. They regard me. The figures stand in for invisible party guests, awkward former classmates, bodies. La Jennifer eludes, an unseen presence amidst the crowd of untitled paintings, but I know these are her friends and choir.
Dianna Molzan, Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas, 30 x 23 inches; Courtesy of the Artist and Overduin and Kite.
In the adjoining gallery, nine cool-grey cylinders hang jauntily from exposed wood stretcher bars. The cylinder edges touch lightly in the cool shade of their particular gray. I listen for for these wind chimes to chime, but barely fail to hear the muffled rub of canvas.
On a wall to the right of large windows, modest in scale, a lonely painting hangs. Molzan charges the surface with the dryness and urgency of Der Blaue Reiter expressionist Franz Marc and tags its face with seven small dangling red tassels. This painting echoes all the flecks, slack, knots, and lightweightness found throughout Molzan’s career cast of characters.
Dianna Molzan, Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches; Courtesy of the Artist and Overduin and Kite.
Centers intact, the five paintings in the second gallery continue their quiet challenge; four brutal abstractions and an arch composition of flowers. With a degree of softness and ample frenetic energy, Molzan arranges three bouquets on a breathy blue ground. With the flowers just so, festive and blushing self-consciously, the four companion abstractions relate through an air of anticipation, mystique, and enigma. The floral composition excitedly embraces the mark making and paint application seen along the surfaces of those abstract brutes.
In taking apart and pronouncing the fundamental materials of the medium, Dianna Molzan rehabs the conventional canvas painting. She carefully crafts painting as both itself and unlike itself; describing deja-vu and the sensation of novelty. What it feels like, decades later, to wear a frock from high school... The resulting aura is strange and awkward, as high school reunions can be. Scribbled on the back of a crumpled press prelease, words like ‘reunion,’ ‘cyclops,’ and ‘flirt’ dangle on the page. I want to tell you that the paintings whispered these inklings at me, but it was only the ever elusive La Jennifer…
(Image on top: Dianna Molzan, Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas on poplar, 41 1/2 x 30 x 6 inches; Courtesy of the Artist and Overduin and Kite.)